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Anyone Been in HMS Dolphin Tank in Plymouth?

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Well-Known Member
Oct 14, 2002
Hi, I'm thinking of going on the freediving course in plymouth in the hms dolphin tank. Has anyone been there/ know anyone who has? If so, is it any good?
HMS Dolphin

Hi! I went on a two-day course at Dolphin in March, and I did another day there yesterday (after you've done one weekend you can do separate days). It's great - you get a unique (in the UK) chance to train in 30m of crystal clear, warm water, with constant supervision and instruction. You don't even have to own your own kit, as there are plenty of masks and Cressi fins to borrow. From what I've seen, there's usually a good mix of experienced and beginning divers, and the experienced divers are willing to lend out their equipment (monofins etc) if you want to give them a try. True, there's no sealife, but watching other divers makes up for it. Yesterday there was a guy called Marcus something who could equalise with the BTV (?) technique, and who could do it so quickly he would just drop like a stone to 20m without touching his nose! Unnatural, I tells ya ...

The tank has various ropes, ladders etc going down the side, and one central line, so there are various ways to go down, not just finning. You're buddied up with someone, who watches over you while you dive, plus Howard stays up top to keep an eye on things, and you're taught how to tell if your buddy looks like sambaing and what to do about it, etc. The emphasis is on not getting to that stage at all, though - I only saw one person close to samba in three days and he was an experienced diver who was pushing it too hard too early on. There is a heavy emphasis on safety (long surface times, checking each other when you surface etc) and it does feel a very safe environment in which to learn a new sport.

I would really recommend it to anyone living in the UK. It isn't cheap (£170 for a weekend) so it would be good to practise equalising and statics and dynamics first, so you can make the most of it when you go.

One thing, though - HMS Dolphin is in Gosport, Hampshire, not Plymouth. So it's quite a way from Devon, but still worth it I think. Since Gosport is only twenty miles from where I live, I feel pretty lucky!

freediving outdoors...

freediving in the UK is not restricted to swimming pools :head

I'm sure Dolphin is good for beginners to get a taste for freediving. But freediving in the UK doesnt have to cost hundreds of pounds- only the price of a car journey. Ok, UK waters are not considered "ideal" conditons, but this doesnt mean that there aren't some fantastic dive sites around, if you just get out there and find them.

Every week, I dive in a freshwater site in North Wales which has excellent visibility (although quite dark) and has some incredible sheer cliffs, scenery, huge shoals of fish, sumberged vehicles, massive brick walls, underwater tunnels, huts and machinery (flooded quarry), and preserved underwater forests with leaves still intact after 30 years! Depths range down to 110m (nearly 4 x Dolphin) with lines ranging from 40 to 90m. It is situated effectively on common land, so it doesnt cost a penny. You can dive there anytime, even at night. I dive there all year round regardless of the weather. It usually rains, sometimes hails, sometimes snows, almost always windy, and occasionally sunny. No, there is no shelter to change, but that doesnt matter -that's all part of the experience - of being out there freediving in *open water*!

I like the expression... "there's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes" :t

The really sad thing is that quite often I'm there on my own -ok, some people dont want to freedive in the UK (which is fair enough), but I'm sure many people (especially newcomers) dont even realise that there are such great places to freedive in the UK! So i'm just doing my bit by trying to spread the word a little here!!

We have other projects on the boil too... This winter myself and a couple of friends will be making some exploratory dives in some high mountain lakes in Snowdonia. They range in depth, the deepest being about 70m. I'm sure there are countless other places around that offer some great diving...

(Having said all that, obviously you should have reached a reasonable level of freediving competency before venturing out in open water. Furthermore I don't promote solo freediving, despite doing it myself.:naughty)

If anyone in the UK likes the idea of diving in non-chloriated water, then drop me a PM or email

sounds awesome. IS there any kind of database of suitable uk dive sites? If not why not, and perhaps we should try and sort one out?
i am situated in devon and newcastle depending on the month. have you heard of any good similar sites around there?
drop me a note if you want me to help with anything like i mentioned above
great idea!

that is a good idea.

i dont know of a database that currently exists. the question is where to store a database... it could probably be kept on the BFA website. I'll get in touch with my friend Mike Alexander who is the BFA webmaster to see if he can help out with that.

i dont know about many other diving sites across the country. to be honest, i've been too busy exploring those in my back yard (North Wales).

the most important thing will be that the database is easy to find on the net (should be the case with the BFA website).

If you dont already know, there is an AIDAUK email group which you can join to keep up to date.... follow my www link to join.

Alun, I take it your talking about Dorothea here? I'm guessing you do have the land owners permission, especially because of the situation with diving there currently (not sure if it's back open yet). Due to the fact that quite a few deaths had occured the land owner didnt want people diving there, and the SCUBA training groups had said insurance would be void if you were diving there when an accident happened. Was sure the guy wasn't opening it up for diving again until a dive centre had been set up with various safety measures. Or maybe I've just missed something in the diving press about it reopening.

But if it has reopened, or you have permission, then ignore me :p

yes, it's Dorothea quarry.

the issues surrounding the site are extremely complicated. i struggle to keep up with the legal side myself. yes, the owner has said that diving there is banned, but a public right of way passes right next to the quarry (the old road between Talysarn and Nantlle), and so the public (including divers) have access to the site. Furthermore, the local farmer, who is diver-friendly wants to keep access open, so he has access to his land which surrounds Dorothea... still with me? :duh

i dont know what the situation is with insurance to be honest with you. BSAC (and some other organisations) have said they dont want their members to dive there, but i dont know what that means in terms of insurance.

there were 3 deaths last winter which gave Dorothea its unfortunate nickname 'pool of death', given by the local newspaper. the problem is that it's a great place for scuba divers to 'push their limits' and many dive there with totally inadequate skills and equipment and have no respect for the place. among the things i've seen include a solo scuba diver decompressing after diving to over 40m with a single 10 and no redundancy (in 4/5oC water). on one occasion i had to rescue a scuba diver who had made a buoyant ascent from 50m. i had to tow him in with my monofin because he was freaking out and incapable of helping himself.....

the site has never really closed as such, and it's currently in a fairly stable state in that there has been no interference from the owner, since his business ventures were exposed by a regional TV documentary. so noone has permission to dive there as such.

as for insurance, you have to make your own mind about that.

PS: it's now generally accepted that the 'dive centre' promised by the owner will almost certainly never materialise, at least whilst he is the owner. this is no bad thing in my opinion. i would hate to see the place turn into somewhere like Stoney Cove :yack

... so there you have it in a nutshell... :)

Yeah, the legal side of it seems to change so much noone can keep up. At one point the owner was apparently clamping cars parked their, until some people came up with the idea of taking 4 wheel clamps themselves whenever they went diving.

But yeah, the incidents that occur there do seem to be people ignoring basic principles. One of the trainees at our club had a nasty accident there, because one of the so called experienced instructors decided to forget some basic safety stuff, and the trainee never bothered to question it.

Never been in Dorothea myself, nearest I've been is Vivian near Snowdon. Only about 20m deep, but has never really been busy when I've been there. Also strangely I've never dived at Stoney, but from what I hear about it, I don't really want to, sounds way to crowded.

clamped cars? that's never happened... just one of those Dorothea rumours.
Vivian is a nice little site. Dorothea is just a scaled up version of Vivian - about 20 times larger - same sort of place essentially. in my opinion Dorothea is safer to dive in than Vivian... because there is no shallow area in Vivian, you have to jump in and exit from 20m of water (the max depth), whereas in Dorothea there are flat bottoms beginning from the concrete apron ranging from just 3-4m downwards... basically any depth you like.
There are underwater 'cliff edges', which go down 10s of metres, but a diver should have the sense not to venture beyond that point if it's beyond his experience.
i suppose it's worth going to Stoney a couple of times just to say you've been there. i'm sure many people love the place, but it's not really my cup of tea... plus they dont allow freediving unless you're wearing a life jacket :duh. if you've been to Capenwray, well Stoney is a scaled up version of Capenwray... about 3-4 times bigger.... if you want to try a good inland dive... try Hodge Close, but be warned, there are caves which needs specialist training.
... oops we've digressed somewhat from the topic of the thread :eek:
Capernwray is my nearest place really, go there quite a lot. Not a bad place really, but then I've never been when it gets busy.
Is Hodge Close the place where you have to go through a tunnel to get to the water, or am I thinking of somewhere else? Not been there, might be doing soonish though.
But yeah, you need to stick within your limits.

It's typical, it seems all my diving is done during winter. All summer noone asks me if I want to go out for a dive, but as soon as it get's cold, and I get a cold, people keep inviting on dives. They must think any water warmer than 4 degrees is bad for me or something...

But yeah, this is kind of off topic really innit? :p

So to get things back on topic, I wouldn't mind trying that submarine escape training tower, but clear water surrounded by swimming pool tiles can only provide a limited amount of interest...

I've been to both!

I went to Dolphin years ago - Howard organised it as a trip for the first UK freedive team - QED were filming us.

My personal opinion is that it is a fantastic place for novices, but it is too shallow for any experienced divers that aren't bothered by cool waters.

Mind you, if your idea of freediving is diving in a deep bath - go for it!

I much prefer the deep darks of Dorothea! That's real diving my lad....

What a snob I am .....

PLYMOUTH you say?

Not Portsmouth?

Either you were mixed up or you are refering to the 10m deep tank in Honiton.....that's not far from Plymouth.
Dolphin is known as the 30m tank, but itsn't it actually about 28m. you have to get into the little chamber to reach 30m, something you cant do when freediving there.
as a cheaper alternative, you could pay £2.50 to visit a 30m swimming pool and swim a couple of lengths and just pretend that you're diving vertically.:t

Ben, how do you and Fiona fancy joining us for a dive in one of the mountain lakes (either Llyn Llydaw or Glaslyn) when you're down over xmas. hills & diving = perfect combination! i'm now feeling confident that i'll be back to full fitness by then :crutch
free diving course

hi devon diver, bryan and alun
just registered today - spent a well interesting couple of hours leafing through the forums and stories etc. top website!
i've decided to try out the course myself - have scuba'd for a couple of years.
been really lucky and have done it in UK, maldives, SA, barrier reef, greece,
always fancied learning how to free dive correctly and not make half-arsed attempts at it
when you thinking of doing the course devondiver?
i live in manchester but the drive doesn't bother me
is there a website i can go to to check it out?
am hoping to get off off to warmer climes early in the new year so would be a good reason to get on a course
training techniques

hi devondiver
many thanks for the link - am checking it out and making plans to start training in around feb 2003
gonna buy a book at the weekend and dry some techiniques on dry land sand and in the local pool
then when i've done a fair bit of training i'm gonna either go back to the maldives or try mauritus to put what i learn into practice

matt - i live in didsbury mate but have offices on princess street in town - how 'bout you?
The HMS Dolphin site states that the water temp is 95F there, is that true??
is'nt that WAY too hot? that's 35C or something like that.
In the summer the water in the Israeli medaterenean can get as hot as 32C, so I'm supposed to be used to warm water. I've been to a pool with a 35C before, I got very bad apnea resaults for a wet workout (which for me is the best workout), and I really felt that the water temp was the thing that kept me from feeling at ease (I wasn't wearing any suit, and I really don't need to lose body fat).
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